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On the Menu: Rushing to judgment — and to eat — at Jose’s Courtroom

Jose’s Courtroom in La Jolla has been serving up authentic Mexican comfort food for nearly 50 years.
(Courtesy of Jose’s Courtroom)

The verdict is in — Jose’s Courtroom in the heart of La Jolla has a warm, rustic Baja vibe offering authentic Mexican comfort food with a fresh twist sure to please palates of all manner.

The lively cantina, deeply ensconced in San Diego’s culinary history, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in November. Shifting gears from Herschel Avenue to Prospect Street, the restaurant has evolved into a coastal hot spot since its owner, Tigg Mitchell, took over the reins in summer 2007. A globetrotter who annually surfs the world’s biggest waves from Fiji to Costa Rica, Mitchell, a coastal connoisseur, has refined the original menu by incorporating fresh and fun ingredients and concepts, along with sassy spirits and sips. Ole!

The rich, smoky aromas pull you in, along with the warm, welcoming wood furnishings, cozy booths, colorful sombrero light fixtures and buzzing bar. In anticipation of the golden milestone, chef Jose Rodriguez — who is not the restaurant’s namesake but has, nevertheless, been whipping up traditional delights in the kitchen for 35 years — has now enlivened the menu with shrimp and avocado ceviche tossed in a zippy citrus lime marinade; the black bean and Spanish rice Baja Bowl; and the “meaty” and savory mushroom tacos with a mother lode of grilled portobellos and onions drizzled with cilantro aioli, a vegan lollapalooza sure to satisfy even the most discriminating carnivore.

Shrimp and avocado ceviche
(Courtesy of Jose’s Courtroom)

Other, traditional menu items to get the fiesta started include nachos tricked out with either pollo asado, carne asada or carnitas and dressed with roasted corn, pickled jalapenos, salsa fresca, refried beans, a blend of Mexican cheeses and house-made tortilla chips; an array of burrito and taco plates; sizzling fajitas and Jose’s Burger, featured on the Travel Channel, mixing house-made chorizo with aged beef, dressed with cotija cheese, jalapeno corn relish and a side of beans and rice or fries.

Sweet tooths can indulge in traditional desserts such as caramel flan, fried ice cream and churro a la mode.

Then it’s up to the lips and over the gums with craft margaritas and cocktails, Mexican beers, locally crafted brews, and boutique tequilas and mezcals.

There’s more. Check out Taco Tuesdays with $3 street tacos and $5 house margaritas, Late Night 5’s offering $5 shots, margaritas and drafts from 9 p.m. to close, and weekday happy hour specials. This fall, Jose’s Courtroom will add to the docket leisurely weekend brunches, two-for-one kids’ meals and a 50th-anniversary shindig in November.

Seasonal tourists, locals and San Diego denizens up and down the coast flock to Jose’s as much for the refreshing ocean breezes, jaw-dropping views of the blue Pacific and people-watching on the coveted family-friendly patio as they do for the fresh, authentic dishes, all made in-house, along with locally sourced ingredients.

On any given day, the court is in session for lunch starting at 11 a.m.

A social media post screaming kudos — “Great food! Great drinks! Great location!” — doesn’t do Jose’s Courtroom justice.

Jose’s Courtroom

Where: 1037 Prospect St., La Jolla

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays through Sundays; happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; Taco Tuesdays from 6 to 9 p.m.

Information: joses.com, (858) 454-7655

Recipe

Baja Bowl

Ingredients:

• 4 ounces carne asada (pre-seasoned and cooked)

• 2 ounces roasted corn

• 4 ounces black beans

• 4 ounces Spanish rice (seasoned and cooked)

• 2 ounces salsa fresca

• 4 ounces romaine lettuce leaves, chopped

• 3 avocados, sliced

• Handful of fresh cilantro

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine chilled ingredients and toss well. Serve in a deep, decorative bowl. Garnish with cilantro.

— Courtesy of chef Jose Rodriguez